Investing to deliver for our patients

This week Professor Sir John Burn and I had the privilege of opening our brand-new Day Treatment Centre at the Freeman Hospital.

I remember visiting some of our existing day surgery wards at the Freeman Hospital just over a year ago and hearing about the limitations of some of the environments that we were using. It was becoming clear that we would need significant additional capacity to manage the many low complexity, high volume procedures that had been delayed due to covid, and we needed a solution.

We hatched a plan for the new Day Treatment Centre with the same spirit that we had adopted throughout the pandemic – listening to our expert clinicians, problem solving together, taking swift action and ultimately being brave.

As a Board of Directors, we took the risk to invest in this major new project because we knew the direct impact it would have on our patients, and because we were convinced that it was the right thing to do.

It’s been less than a year since we announced plans to begin building, with work commencing on-site in November 2021. The keys were handed over to us from our contractors just 10 months later, in August 2022.

It’s been a phenomenal effort, not just to create this positive clinical environment, but also to develop a new model of day treatment to underpin it and create streamlined, effective and safe pathways for our patients.

The new centre includes four state-of-the-art theatres which will allow us to treat an additional 7,000 patients every year. It will go a long way to help us to address some of the waiting list challenges created by the pandemic. Initially the directorates involved will include musculoskeletal, urology, general surgery, plastic surgery, neurology, the pain service and cardio.

Operations and procedures will include cartilage and joint repairs for knees and hips, removing pacemakers, injections to manage pain, treatment for bladder and kidney problems, hernias and minor plastic surgery. This in turn allows space in our main theatres and clinical areas for those directorates to be freed up for more complex procedures to take place, maximising our efficiency in a variety of different ways.

The £24 million we’ve invested includes both the fabric of the building, clinical equipment and most importantly in the 200 additional staff who will work to support our patients.

What will this mean for patients?

People from across the North East will benefit from this new facility and they have been at the centre of all our plans. When the first patients are treated this morning (Friday) they will find a purpose-built clinical environment, designed to provide them with a safe and stream-lined experience.

The welcoming and friendly reception area leads patients into a layout described as a ‘racetrack’. This simplifies the patient journey through the service, as they go through the admissions area, surgery, recovery and discharge lounges, ensuring that waiting time is minimised.

The admissions and recovery areas have been designed to bring natural light into the space, and a lovely feature is that patients can see the trees through high level windows helping to orientate them as they recover.

The new centre is a standalone building, separate from – but close to – the main Freeman Hospital. This means that appointments should not be affected by emergency admissions or by the winter pressures which might previously have caused them to be cancelled, giving patients more certainty about when they will be seen.

Having only day surgery cases together in one place with tailor-made layout and dedicated equipment, means everything is immediately to hand, so there’s an efficient pathway and higher theatre throughput. We expect that this will mean that patients with less complex needs will be able to be seen faster.

Safety is, of course, fundamental to the running of all our services and patients offered an appointment at the centre will be carefully assessed for their suitability using stringent clinical criteria. The building design and our clinical processes all incorporate ‘getting it right first time’ best practices.

The team are keen to actively seek patient feedback on all aspects of their experience, so have built in consistent ways to listen, learn and improve.

What will this mean for staff?

Around 200 additional staff have been recruited to support the day treatment centre, some who will work fully in the unit, as well as those who will also support other teams. It was a pleasure to meet some of the team who are clearly incredibly proud to be establishing this new approach.

Some have previously worked in the trust, others have come from neighbouring organisations, some from elsewhere in the UK and another cohort have joined us from overseas. In recruiting, we were very cautious to avoid taking too many staff from one area and our recruitment strategy has been successful in bringing in new colleagues from a range of backgrounds.

Matron Caoimhe Doherty

Matron, Caoimhe Doherty said ‘I’m delighted to welcome the new team together. We’ve spent time getting to know each other and maximising the skills people bring, and we’ve been working hard to set up the new service ready to receive patients. Staff have already said that the DTC feels like home, and we’re all looking forward to starting to treat patients.”

David Rix, Clinical Director of the DTC and a consultant urology surgeon in the trust, said ‘It’s been a privilege to be part of this team effort, and I’m grateful to everyone across the trust who has helped to set us up for success. There has been such a positive ‘can do’ attitude throughout from the DTC team, the wider clinical body across the trust and from the teams in estates, IT, procurement, the programme management office and many more.

David Rix, Clinical Director of the DTC

“Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this fantastic achievement. I’m happy that 12 months ago the Newcastle Hospitals board had the resolve to make this investment and very pleased that Tyneside patients will now start to benefit from the additional capacity we’re providing here. Those suitable for a day case should now been seen more quickly and people waiting for a more complex procedure, such as cancer surgery, will benefit from the theatre space being freed up on our main sites.”

What’s next for day treatment?

The day treatment centre provides us with an exciting opportunity to boost the number of patients we can treat, but it’s important to remember that there will still be day case procedures going on across many other parts of the organisation and we expect to see even more of them in the future.

An improvement team led by Dr John Crossman and supported by Newcastle Improvement is currently working hard to iron out some of the wrinkles in our ways of managing these pathways to increase efficiency, throughput and the overall experience of patients.

They have been using improvement methodologies to look at different ways to support day cases by running Saturday lists and they have identified some important elements which will increase the number of patients we can see and make sure that we safely choose patients suitable for day surgery more quickly.

The team is embarking on a 12-week improvement ‘sprint’ to test further solutions and I look forward to hearing their progress.

All of these developments make me reflect on the skill, determination and sheer hard work that I see everywhere I go across Newcastle Hospitals. Our focus on providing the very best care for our patients remains undiminished and I want to say thank you once more for all of your efforts.

Leadership matters

Last week over 300 colleagues joined together for a day of listening and learning at our Leadership Matters event. It was fantastic to see the session so well attended, with such a diverse range of roles in the room – including health care assistants, directors, catering staff, directorate managers and so many more.

Participants spent time hearing about the What Matters to You Programme as well as listening to improvement stories from colleagues who have made a difference in their own areas. They also learnt about our new behaviours, developed by our staff – known as Our Newcastle Way – and we will share more information on this in a future blog.

Annual Members’ Meeting

Earlier this week we held our annual members’ meeting, which gave us an opportunity to reflect on our achievements, our challenges and everything we still need to focus on.

As part of the event we also held a marketplace where some of our staff showcased their innovative services. It was great to be able to meet everyone, including Cheryl Gascoigne who told me all about her work around the sensational thinking project.  There was a real sense of pride and purpose and it was lovely to have the opportunity to say thank you to everyone in person.  You can view some of our achievements in this video which takes a look back over the last year.

Staff survey

This week we launched our Annual Staff Survey – which is your opportunity to tell us what matters to you.

I’d urge everyone, including bank workers, to look out for your email invitation to take part – it takes just 15 minutes and is completely confidential. It’s a chance to share what makes you proud to work here, but also what we can do it make things better – and make Newcastle the best possible place to work.

By telling us the issues that matter, you can make a real difference – for instance, feedback from staff has helped to create our new staff bistros, car park, flexible working approach and Our Newcastle Way behaviours.

If you have any questions about your staff survey, you can get more information on our Human Resources pages of our intranet.

Thank You Month

Tonight marks the end of Thank You Month with our Celebrating Excellence Awards at the Civic Centre, which will recognise the exceptional work of our staff, volunteers and charity supporters across Newcastle Hospitals. Good luck to all our finalists and I look forward to seeing you there.

I hope you have all enjoyed taking part in lots of different ways this month – from sharing thank you cards, enjoying cake and ice cream or attending one of our events.

You may have noticed that we have extended the deadline for our Great Newcastle Hospitals Bake Off until the end of October to give teams plenty of time to take part and get together over a slice of cake. Email [email protected] for more information.

However, as the month draws to a close – I want to harness some of the appreciation that was shared among teams and emphasise that it does not end here. It’s so important that we all share our gratitude with each other – not just in September – but every day.

Awards and achievements

  • Our Chairman, Professor Sir John Burn and Professor Giovanni de Gaetano of Neuromed Research Institute, Pozzilli, Italy have both been recognised with the International Aspirin Foundation’s prestigious Senior Science Award 2022. Sir John’s award was for excellence and innovation in clinical science recognising his outstanding contribution to defining aspirin’s role in cancer prevention, and in particular, the role of aspirin in the prevention of hereditary colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
  • Our IPC team are finalists in the Infection Prevention Society’s Impact Awards for Excellence ‘Aiming for and achieving the best IPC practice of education’.
  • Congratulations to our physiotherapy clinical research specialist team lead, Kate Hallsworth on her Population Health Fellowship Award from NHS Health Education England.
  • Congratulations also to Professor Derek Manas for his distinguished service award at the British Association for the Study of the Liver – for his amazing support to liver transplant patients – and more generally the liver community – over the years.